Here's my take on the much-loved pasta dish from the town of Amatrice, spaghetti all'Amatriciana. If you can’t find cubed pancetta, buy a small slab of it and cut it into large cubes. If pancetta is not available, use a small slab of bacon instead, and failing that, thick-sliced bacon.
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
200g (about 7 ounces) cubed pancetta
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
¼ cup dry white wine
2 x 400g (14 ounce) cans crushed Italian tomatoes
2 dried bird’s eye chillies, crushed, or ¼-½ tsp chilli flakes
1 Tbsp tomato concentrate
½ cup pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese
400g (about 14 ounces) spaghetti
1 Put the oil in a medium-sized saucepan with pancetta. Sauté gently over a very low heat for 10-12 minutes or so, until most of the fat is rendered from the pancetta. Stir often, and don’t let the heat get away on you or the pancetta will burn. Transfer crisp pieces of pancetta to a plate using a slotted spoon. Retain the oil and bacon fat.
2 Add the onion to the pan and cook for about 7 minutes, until tender. Pour in wine and let it evaporate by half. Add tomatoes, crushed chilli or flakes and tomato concentrate. Bring to a gentle boil, lower heat and simmer gently for 25 minutes, or until pulpy. Season with salt – how much will depend on the saltiness of the pancetta, but at least a good couple of pinches!
3 Cook pasta in plenty of gently boiling well-salted water until al dente. Drain. Transfer to a heated serving bowl and toss through half the sauce and half the cheese, then stir through remaining sauce. Top with crisp pieces of pancetta and scatter remaining cheese over the top of everything. Serve immediately.
On a serious note, in memory of the people who lost their lives in the recent earthquake in Italy, and for those who lost loved ones or their homes, I have added Spaghetti all’Amatriciana to Shared Kitchen. Above all else the recipe shows a resourcefulness not often acknowledged in seemingly simple recipes, in how you can make a tasty, satisfying dish from few ingredients. In the aftermath of the earthquake’s devastation that resourcefulness will be very welcome. (2016)